a sci-fi spy novel
Stephan Michael Loy's
FIONA STREET is a black ops operative for the National Security Agency, or at least she was until they temporarily transfered her to a new investigative arm of the Special Prosecutor's office. There, Fiona is a confused fish-out-of-water, a mission-oriented soldier thrust into the quagmire of politics. Then the other shoe drops. The special prosecutor wants her to undergo a surgical procedure that would meld her mind with that of an alley cat.
He wants her to do what? With a what?
But the man is not kidding. The procedure would cause woman and feline to share sensations, Fiona's skills combined with the predatory perspective of the cat. This would make an already expert operative into the most capable and dangerous spy on Earth. All it takes is a little brain surgery...
FIONA STREET. The singularity is here, and it ain't pretty.
THE SHORT OF IT:
The singularity, the merging of man and machine. Take one NSA black ops commando. Take one ordinary alley cat. Merge their minds through advanced digital electronics and cutting-edge neuroscience. What do you get? Fiona Street, the most feared and efficient intelligence agent on the face of the Earth. But what does she risk to command her game? Is she truly human anymore?
The singularity is here, and it ain't pretty.
THE LONG OF IT:
Fiona Street isn't anything special, just an apolitical, self-centered party girl who happens to run an elite Insertion and Extraction commando team for the National Security Agency. She's good at her work, but so are many others. Her only claim to fame is that, through an administrative quirk of fate, she is a woman competing in a man's profession.
That is until her team rescues the wife and children of the congressional Speaker of the House. Upon returning home safe from being held by kidnapper/revolutionaries in South America, the speaker's wife recommends Fiona for membership in a new and elite investigative division of the office of the special prosecutor, This experimental organization, called the Internal Security Service (ISS) is slotted to root out corruption and subterfuge in special prosecutor cases, to help the prosecutor bring justice and order to the halls of American government.
Except that isn’t what they are doing, unbeknownst to them. Judge Jackson Truman, recruited by Congress to investigate illegal dealings with the Chinese and with South American drug cartels by the executive branch, has brought down three presidents in two years and is digging about for more so-called enemies of the republic. Truman is a true believer, a super-patriot, whose concept of corruption goes far beyond that of most others in government. He is taking down leaders whose only transgression is that they disagree with Judge Jackson Truman. Now, the Judge intends to subvert the fledgling ISS into his personal secret police force, answerable only to him. But Congress and the president granted him only four agents to start the ISS. What good -- or bad -- could four agents do? Well, thanks to considerable advances in adaptive neuroscience and micro-electronics, the answer is quite a lot. In order to leverage the skills of his four agents, Truman insists each one undergo an experimental neuro-interface procedure pairing the agent with an ordinary alley cat. The agent's learned skills and considerable knowledge combined with the cat's natural senses and predatory instincts could make the ISS inspectors the most efficient and feared intelligence force in the world.
But, as with all new technology, Truman's doctors run into a hitch. At the current level of technology, only women's brains are suitable for the procedure, which nonetheless more often results in insanity or brain shutdown than in any usable outcome. Only one woman is slotted for ISS membership: Fiona Street. Consequently, Truman bullies Fiona into undergoing the procedure without informed consent while his doctors desperately seek to improve their techniques. The way is hard for this young, apolitical woman who only wishes to keep her job. After the surgery she has difficulty adjusting to her new reality. She is sometimes herself, sometimes the little black alley cat she was paired with, and sometimes an alien mixture of the two. She must learn to control the interface, learn to communicate with the cat, learn to develop some mental equilibrium that will allow her to function in the world.
Meantime, Truman continues his mission to clean up government to the point that he interferes with a CIA special op and labels all its participants traitors. It looks as though he is going for his fourth president, several senators, and the head of the Immigration Service. When his ISS becomes suspicious that Truman's actions are less than on the level, the Judge determines that his own agents have turned against him, that they are likely plants by the very men he seeks to destroy. Believing he must out-maneuver his enemies in order to protect the American people, Truman orders his ISS agents murdered. Now Fiona must come out of her shell, shake off her self-centered nature, and go against the man who pays her checks and the formidable force he commands.
Fiona Street is not political sci-fi in the strictest sense. It does not try to make an overt point about the nature of the body politic. It is primarily an action-adventure science fiction super hero story, but with a double-edged message about the importance and the dangers of political awareness. Think Captain America and Ghost in the Shell meet The Six Million Dollar Man.
FIONA STREET grew out of a fascinating episode of NPR's Science Friday. In that episode, circa 1998 or thereabouts and for the life of me I can’t find it anywhere, the host interviewed scientists who successfully used technology to pair the brain of a blind human with that of a chicken. The person was thus able to "see” for the first time in decades, and through the chicken's eyes. He couldn't see very well -- the technology was primitive and so is a chicken's eyesight -- but still...
Never heard another word about that research. Perhaps it hit a wall somewhere and didn't pan out, as so much pure research tends to do. Or maybe, as in this story, the research got commandeered by the CIA. Who knows? Actually, I'm sure somebody does, and it isn't as sinister an outcome as I hint at. But that story placed a seed in my imagination and almost fifteen years later that seed bears fruit.
The singularity is here, and it ain't pretty.
FIONA STREET is nothing if not a character-driven story. Without the intricacies of relations between each of these characters and even the minor characters that fill out the plot, the greater portions of the story could not come to fruition. Without Judge Truman's super-patriotic pit bull style of rooting out un-American activity and without Fiona Street's complete apathy toward all things political, the ultimate outcome of this story could not come to pass.
CAPTAIN FIONA STREET
Fiona Street is a puzzle, not the person you'd point to as a prospective super heroine. This striking, pale-skinned, freckled redhead was orphaned at thirteen years old. Child Protective Services dragged her through a parade of foster homes, some of them abusive, until she lied about her age and joined the Army. Officers Candidate School took her to Military Intelligence, which led her to a short-lived experiment in which the Army allowed women access to previously all-male combat specialties. That's how Fiona came to lead an elite Insertion and Extraction team for the National Security Agency. She excels at her job not because she is a true believer, a military-political animal, or a great patriot, but because she is a super-competitor, her job is full of thrills, and if she stops working hard (or partying hard, for that matter) she might have to remember where she came from.
Short is a career CIA agent. Not the most personable man in the world, he cuts Fiona the wrong way whenever they're in each other’s neighborhood. But Short, for all his faults, is just the guy to have on your side when things go dark and wrong. He's a sneaky, unscrupulous bastard, but he's yours.
A career FBI agent, Bradbury is a company man, a team player, a true believer in America and all it promises. This may sound like an odd perspective for a black man without privilege in America, but Bradbury has only seen the better side of his country's changeable personality. So when he is chosen to head the new investigative arm of the special prosecutor's office, he sees that opportunity as a chance to give a bit back to his nation, a chance to stamp out the corruption that so often short-circuits the promise of democracy. Bradbury's in for a nasty surprise, one he will find himself ill-equipped to handle.
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS ALEXANDER GRACE
Fiona Street's team sergeant for the last three years, he has taught her much of what she knows about special operations, leading men, and being a good officer. He holds a kind of father's pride regarding his favorite young officer, and will do whatever is within his power to help her when she's in need.
JUDGE JACKSON TRUMAN
He serves as the special prosecutor of the united States, his mission to investigate and prosecute possible high-level corruption involving illegal dealings with China and South American drug cartels. An energetic pit bull of a judge, Truman leaves no rock unturned in his hunt for corrupted government officials. He has brought down three presidents, several congressmen, and a number of high officeholders in the executive branch, and he’s just getting started. Problem is, Truman may be a little too dedicated to his job. His efforts, far from protecting America, may bring down its government altogether. He craves justice, and to achieve justice he must first attain power. He is willing to secure that power at all costs, and by any means.
Click the PDF files below to enjoy almost fifty pages of excerpts from FIONA STREET. These excerpts encompass the first two chapters, which introduce the basic conflict and many of the primary characters. They do not get into the nitty-gritty of the story (No spoilers!). You will need a PDF reader such as Microsoft Word, Pages, or Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files. You can download Acrobat Reader here, for free.
Introduces Fiona Street and her NSA commando team, as well as her best friend Menyell. This is a good overview of the scope and tone of this story. From jungle military operation to middle class southern wedding, this is the life our protagonist loves to lead.
Introduces the overarching political crisis that serves as the book's foundation. You meet Judge Jackson Truman, the "bad guy." You also meet his ultimate nemesis, newly appointed president Daniel Irvine, who hopes to bring Truman down by political means.
Nothing speaks more to the worth of a book than the acclamations of those who’ve read it. Here are some of the comments offered by readers after their experience with FIONA STREET.
Having read a few of Stephan Loy's books, I always enjoy his interesting descriptions and engaging dialogue. He has a certain rhythm to his writing that he has perfected. The complexity of his work always stands out as intelligent, well developed, and intense. I loved Fiona Street because of all these things. I especially loved the cat as a character. One can tell that Loy puts a lot of thought into making his characters unique, yet realistic. I recommend this book to anyone with an imagination, sense of adventure, or who just wants to escape the mundane!
I picked up this book without reading all of the blurb. So all I knew was "female special ops." And that was enough for the first half of the book. This thing with the cat was hinted at, but mostly it was guns and wetsuits and political intrigue, and it was good. Some nice action, clearly written, not confusing, and a brewing Constitutional crisis were plenty to keep a reader engaged. Strong characterization for the leads. Distinctive voices for even the supporting characters.
Then the cat arrived, and the book went from good to awesome.
I've read a couple of Loy's other books. This one is the most entertaining, without a doubt. At the end, I was rooting for the heroine, and I enjoy a book that makes its main characters believable enough that you CARE what happens to them. I don't encounter that a lot in my reading, but I found it here in Fiona Street.
And did I mention the cat is awesome?
...And I'm not even a cat guy. I like dogs.
Having read several of Stephan Loy's books, I was prepared to rate Fiona Street at four stars, but this time I was swirled into the action from the beginning. Once Fiona met Oz the cat I was hooked! The plot is complex with so many government agencies chasing each other across the world. Who is trustworthy? Who isn't? Violence increases with the addition of the dogs, but Loy still manages to add touches of humor to keep the reader from being overwhelmed with the tension. As it was, I found my teeth chattering during Fiona's glide toward the climax of the story.